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Tuesday, May 10, 2011

A Streetcar Named Desire at USM

Of the several productions by the Southern Miss Theatre Department this year, one of the most interesting ones is Marat/Sade. Below is a critique that I wrote on the theatrical elements that were put into the production of the show.

USM’s Marat/Sade was written as a very interesting story, but was made more interesting through the decisions of the costume and scene design as well as the director. The choices by Bailey Cole and Monica Hayes, just as two examples, exemplified two areas of changes to the play that made it different at USM than from any other venue.
The decision by Monica Hayes to make the Herald a woman as opposed to a man changed the entire dynamic of the play. This change created a sexual tension (or what seems to be so) between the Marquis de Sade and herself possible. They were two very powerful characters in the play and therefore their relationship was portrayed very clearly on the stage. The female Herald does not seem to have any serious psychological problems, so it can be assumed that she is a political prisoner as well as Sade. After listening to Annie Cleveland’s interview after the play, it was interesting to find out that she is naturally a fairly quiet person who normally plays “innocent” characters. Her part as the Herald is one with a booming voice and suggested sexuality, which must have been a challenge for Annie.
Bailey Cole’s costumes and hair and makeup designs were interesting. For example, the fact that she said that the hair designs were modeled after a Dolce and Gabbana show in 2006. Watching the play and not knowing this, I noticed the hair designs and thought that they looked rather familiar, and while I do not have a lot of historical knowledge about the time of the play, it makes sense now that I realize that they were from recent fashion shows. Rosignol’s (Kira Lyon’s) hair especially reminded me of current high fashion hair trends. The fact that all of the asylum’s characters’ costumes got progressively more disheveled was very well staged, as it wasn’t always noticeable but by the end of the play they looked significantly different than they did at the beginning.
All of the characters having certain psychological problems (aside from the purely political prisoners such as Sade), and it is interesting to see how each of them plays out their given disorders. Finding out that some of the actors were allowed to research into and decide what their disorders were shows that the actors had a very involved job of getting into character. For example, the fact that Annie decided that she had Histrionic Disorder makes sense as she played it out, but just reading the play and trying to figure something like that out of context must be difficult.
Chris and Joseph’s characters were clearly drastically different, although the entire play is rather challenging to keep up with. It was clear that Chris’ character of Jean-Paul Marat was very much in favor of violent revolution and that Joseph’s Marquis de Sade believed in changes of people from within. Having not learned very much in history classes in high school, it was difficult for me to keep up with the historical content of the play. However, it was overall successful in depicting themes such as Sade’s control over everyone as though they were puppets, Marat’s revolutionary and frightening political writing, and the denial by people such as the Coulmiers that there were still struggles between social classes.
Annie Cleveland and Joseph Lopez

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